Special Ed students transition from high school to college


The transition from high school to college can be stressful for any student, but the stress can be more overbearing for students with disabilities.

According to federal data, a third of special education students that enroll in a four-year college or university graduate within eight years. Special education students enrolling in two-year schools or community colleges don’t fare much better than those who enroll in four-year schools which is a total of 41 percent of special education students.

According to nces.ed.gov, a specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. According to the Hechinger Report, the weaknesses of special ed students include bad study habits, time management and being able to advocate for themselves.

The Hechinger Report is a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on the inequality and innovation in education, in partnership with the Huffington Puff.

Special ed students process information differently, so they need more explicit instruction to develop and use these skills more than general education students.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was enacted in 1975 and was formerly known as the Education For All Handicapped Children Act, mandates the provision of a free and appropriate public school education for eligible students ages 3 to 21.

The most recent data from nces.ed.gov is that during the 2015-16 school year all public schools that recorded using accommodations from IDEA was 6.7 million students, or 13 percent of total enrollment.

The thing about K-12 education is that if you were a special ed student  and you are used to small class sizes, but with the inclusion aspect, you could also learn in a gen ed classroom setting with extra help. Another thing about K-12 education is having access to an Individualized Learning Plan and a 504 for mobility, but it depends on the student in question.

The only thing that transfers to college from the student’s K-12 education is the 504 and if they had one. But the accommodations can be used for the student’s college education as it relates more to the IEP for the student.

According to a September 2011 federal study that followed students for several years after high school graduation found that special ed students were less likely to attend and reach completion of higher education.  The name of the study, “The Post-High School outcomes of young adults with disabilities up to six years after high school,” is by SRI International and Institute of Education Sciences.


According to the Hechinger Report, students with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or other specific learning disabilities often have weaknesses with executive function, which makes it harder to organize their time and problem solve. Also according to the Hechinger Report, autistic students may have trouble knowing how to act in social situations.

“It’s a crisis. Our kids are graduating to the couch,” Karen Salomon, a Pennsylvania parent of a son with autism, said to the Hechinger Report.

Cole Hendricks was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in the third grade, but his Attention Deficit Disorder was not an issue academically throughout high school. He was at Purdue University at the time the Hechinger Report did the article about special ed students and college.

“The transition going from high school to college was definitely difficult,” Hendricks told the Hechinger Report. “Freshman year kind of hit me pretty hard.”

According to eyetoeyenational.org, Hendricks was a part of the group “Eye to Eye” at Purdue University, where he served the roles of  mentor, chapter leader and diplomat. He joined the “Eye to Eye” group his sophomore year at Purdue University.

The thing with special education in high school is that it is different from special education in college because of the IEP. I think that the IEP should transfer over to college and not necessarily the 504, unless the student absolutely needs it. The accommodations that the student makes relates more to the IEP than 504 accommodations. 504 for special education depends on the needs of the student. It is a case by case basis that operates on need. Those soft skills not taught to special ed students in high school means that special ed students feel less equipped than general ed students in a college environment, because they don’t necessarily have the skills to survive in their college level classes.

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